As scary as it may sound, Locksmith scams are becoming a part of our daily lives. Locksmiths target home and auto owners when they are at their most vulnerable state and in desperate need for help- in an emergency and needing immediate assistance.
Most of the times we feel that searching for a locksmith online is probably a smart decision. However, we could become a victim of fake or scamming locksmiths who are imitating legitimate ones on the online directories. The case is these fake locksmiths impersonate the local locksmiths and they don’t even have any local workshop. Sometimes these so-called locksmiths are not even properly trained and are operated through out-of-state call centers.
A few cautious steps taken by you can help in avoiding a scamming company or an untrained impersonator.
1. “Local” is the Keyword
Do your research in advance. Take good time and do not rush with the search.
If a locksmith business is registered with a local address, Google the address and find out if any other business is registered with the same address.
Even if you are in an emergency, you should always be aware of the services that answer the phone with any generic phrase, such as “Welcome to locksmith services”. If the one you have called is unwilling to provide you a legal business name, you need to find another locksmith.
Also see if the companies are using any “800” number or a local number. “800” number can indicate that the locksmith you are calling could be an offshore call centre.
2. Check Identification and License
When the locksmith arrives at the destination it is important to ask for identification, including a locksmith license where one is applicable.
Out of all the states, only fifteen of them require locksmith licensing, making it a crime work or even advertise as a locksmith without valid credentials. Check if your state is one of the 15 states on Google.
3. Beware of low prices
Always get a quote on the phone before allowing any technician to meet you. Be skeptical of any locksmith providing unbelievably low price. Those are major red flags. Always ask about the labor costs, emergency costs as well as the service fees.
Never allow anyone to start work on the home or vehicle without having full knowledge of the expenditures you could incur.
4. There better not be any hidden charges
It is important to inquire if there are any additional charges, especially in case of emergencies.
A scamming company might also claim the lock on your home or vehicle is obsolete and it needs to be replaced. They will charge you an arm and a leg to replace the existing lock with one which they will say is a high-security lock but that seldom is the case. You could end up paying them to replace the existing good lock with a cheap one for a higher price.
5. Ask for Vehicle Identification
Always keep an eye on your surroundings. In case someone arrives in an unmarked vehicle and claims they are with a specific locksmith company definitely do not allow them to start work. Legitimate locksmith companies always send their technicians in a marked vehicle with the Company logos, phone numbers, and brand named tools. This is a call for awareness.
6. Ask for a written estimate
Always ask for a written estimate. This will cover you from hidden fees and additional labor charges. If a locksmith is being hesitant to give you a signed written estimate then do not allow them to start the job. This can mean that they are not reputable and just want to make some quick money.
7. On site estimate should tally with the written estimate
Any reputable locksmith company will provide you with a detailed estimate during the telephonic conversation. This will include cost of arrival, labor as well as the necessary parts. This estimate will with the on site estimate. Locksmiths looking to scam you will change their estimate upon arrival by adding extra hidden fees even before the work begins. Be safe from such dishonest service providers.
8. Say ‘No’ to Drilling and Replacement
Any locksmith company that suggests the lock needs to be drilled or replaced is a fraud. Experienced locksmith technicians can unlock almost any door. If they want to drill the lock, say a straight ‘No’. There is a high chance they are scamming you and looking for more money. All genuine locksmith companies trains their technicians to properly unlock any door.
9. Avoid cash transactions
All genuine locksmith companies give you the option to pay by cash, check and/or credit. Any company that insists on cash transactions only is looking for quick money and there is a 99.99 per cent possibility that it is a scam. This is also an important question you should ask upfront. Make sure you are aware of how they take payment BEFORE they start work.
10. Do not leave the locksmiths unattended during the work
I do not suggest that you should not trust the person who has arrived to help you, but it is important to keep an eye on what they are doing. Your carefulness can prevent you from being scammed in more ways you can imagine.
If you feel that you have been overcharged or scammed by a locksmith, you should immediately contact the office of your state attorney general. If you are lucky, the AG’s office might have a provision of engaging a staff to work as a mediator between the customers and the businesses and you could get your money back. Be careful and stay safe.